Another thing that really helped me is what I think should be the golden rule of sleep: If you are ever in bed and feeling frustrated, get out of bed, do something enjoyable and relaxing (I recommend starting with a brain dump), and come back to bed when you feel more sleepy. This helps re-establish that bed is for sleeping, not worrying, and for me leaving bed kind of took the pressure off, which helped me calm down much faster than if I were to stay in bed trying to force myself to sleep.
Finally, I’ll go with the simple but little-known fact that waking up a lot throughout the night can be a sign that you have sleep apnea. This is important because many doctors just assume it’s insomnia and prescribe a sleeping pill, which is a problem because a) sleeping pills are not the gold standard treatment for insomnia, and b) sleeping pills can make the sleep apnea worse, which can be downright dangerous.
It’s also very possible to have both sleep apnea and insomnia, in which case you’ll have to treat both (but that still generally should not involve sleeping pills).
For those who are traveling long distances, any recommendations for reducing jet lag?
Bright light therapy is most effective, provided your doctor says it’s safe for you. You can use the sun for this or get a portable therapy light. If traveling east, expose yourself to 30 minutes of bright light (ideally sunlight) at your wake-up time in your original time zone and get as much light and activity as you can for the next eight hours or so. Move this light exposure up by an hour a day until you’re synced up with your target schedule.
If traveling west, expose yourself to bright light in the one to two hours leading up to your normal bedtime in your original time zone, and keep getting light until you go to sleep or until about three hours before your usual wake-up time in your original time zone. Move this light exposure later by an hour a day until you sync up with your target schedule.
How is a sleep disorder different from being sleep deprived?
Think of sleep deprivation like hunger. There are many reasons you might be hungry. Maybe a medical issue is ruining your appetite, making it hard for you to keep food down, or preventing your body from properly absorbing nutrients. You might also be hungry simply because you’re skipping meals due to a busy schedule. Naturally, those problems require different solutions. In the same way, there are many reasons you might be sleep-deprived, including an unrelated medical issue, a sleep disorder, or because you just aren’t spending enough time in bed.
Not only do those three categories require different solutions but different sleep disorders will also require very different solutions. So, it’s not enough to just know that you’re sleep-deprived, my mission with the book is to help people pinpoint why they’re sleep deprived so they can then find the best solutions for their specific issue.
Finally, when should someone seek out a sleep specialist to determine if they have a sleep disorder?
Everyone has a bad night here and there, so that’s nothing to worry about. But if you consistently have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or you consistently feel sleepy during the day and you don’t know why, it’s time to address that issue. And while some sleep issues can be addressed at home, some will require professional help. Keep in mind that sleep specialists often have an area of expertise. For example, an expert in sleep apnea might know very little about how to treat insomnia. So, find a sleep clinician who has a lot of experience treating patients with your particular issue. Sleepeducation.org and behavioralsleep.org are both great resources, as are patient support groups.
Want more on how to get better sleep? Check out how breathwork can help you get a good night’s sleep.